STUTTGART, Germany (AP) – Three Iraqi men were convicted and sentenced to prison Tuesday for plotting to kill then-Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi during a visit to Germany in 2004.
The Stuttgart state court convicted the three men of attempted participation in murder and membership in terrorist organization Ansar al-Islam, a radical Islamic group linked to al-Qaida.
Ringleader Ata Abdoulaziz Rashid was given a 10-year sentence while co-defendants Rafik Mohamad Yousef and Mazen Ali Hussein were sentenced to 8 and 7½ years.
Prosecutors said the three planned to attack Allawi at a business forum at a bank in downtown Berlin. A few weeks earlier, Ansar al-Islam had called on a Web site for Allawi to be killed.
The men were arrested in pre-dawn raids on Dec. 3, 2004. They denied the charges during the trial, which began in June 2006.
Ansar al-Islam, which was formed in the Kurdish region of Iraq, is believed to have been behind attacks on U.S. and allied troops in Iraq. The defendants are Iraqi citizens of Kurdish origin.
According to the indictment, Rashid also conducted monthly collections for the group in 2003-2004 and transferred the money to Iraq.
Judge Christine Rebsam-Bender described Rashid, 34, as “an important, leading member of Ansar al-Islam in Germany” who had regular contact with the group’s leadership in Iraq. She said the 26-year-old Hussein was slated to succeed Rashid in that role.
The court found that Yousef, 33, had volunteered to carry out the attack on Allawi, and that he got approval by telephone from Rashid and Hussein. Lawyers for the defendants have argued that, while they talked in hypothetical terms of an attack, they had no access to weapons or explosives and they had no realistic chance of carrying out any such plan.